Conan O'Brien Takes Care of His Own
According to the Associated Press, Conan O'Brien has reached a $45 million settlement for his exit from The Tonight Show. NBC was trying to grant separate severance deals to members of Conan's staff, but he had another idea. Instead, Conan decided to keep close to $33 million and distribute the remaining money to his staff - out of his own pocket. O'Brien has put the word out: he takes care of his own.
Various proposals had been raised to accommodate Jay Leno's return to his original time slot after, to put it bluntly, bombing so badly in prime time that affiliates were complaining about their late news ad revenue. There's been speculation that The Tonight Show's ratings may have also suffered as a result of the poor lead-in. To remedy this situation, the NBC brain trust's proposal was to slide O'Brien to 12:05, which he wanted no part of, and with good reason. If The Tonight Show takes place past midnight, wouldn't it then be the "Tomorrow" show? Let us recall such a show actually existed.
While the public is not privy to the exact numbers, I have heard rumors that Leno's contract for his new show contains a "settlement clause" promising him $150 million if he is taken off the air within two years. As a result, that $45 million to be paid to O'Brien looks like chicken feed. Of course, NBC would have been far wiser to never have tried to "fix" something that wasn't broken, thus breaking it badly in the process.
As famous Chinese General Sun Tzu (The Art of War) counseled his generals to treat their rank and file soldiers "as their own beloved sons," so too has O'Brien. Regardless of where Conan ends up, his act of decency and generosity towards his hard-working staff is sure to be long remembered. NBC could learn a thing or two about how to be a class act from the guy they kicked to the curb.